Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012, Natural History Museum

-This exhibition is now closed-

I had the good fortune to attend the recent preview evening of the Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum, and this year’s presentation is as stunning and thought-provoking as ever.

The quality and variety of photography is staggering, ranging from the aspirational to the sombre. Pål Hermansen’s Bumper Life, a great shot of an abandoned scrap yard which has become overgrown and home to new wildlife, allows us to imagine a human world of machines reclaimed and in balance with nature. Meanwhile Brent Stirton’s Deadly Medicine photojournalism tells an unsettling story of violent animal abuse in the illegal trade of Rhino horn.

Special mention must go to the junior competition winners; under-18s whose talent and discipline are enough to make any adult amateur green with envy. My favourite in this category, for sheer pluck and courage, is teenager Brieuc Graillot Denaix’s The Unexpected Hunter, which features a menacing Canadian wild black bear fresh from the kill.

Some of the most wonderful images in the exhibition took me some time to decrypt. Initially I thought Jeanine Lovett’s beautiful Ice Birds photo had been taken from above by helicopter, but luckily the photographer was present to set me straight; the photo was taken from the deck of a ship as a giant overturned iceberg passed by in the Southern Ocean. The competition’s winning image, Paul Nicklen’s Bubble-jetting Emperors, features emperor penguins frenetically charging up out of the water in Antarctica, and is a stunning portrait of boththe animal and its environment.

The exhibition runs until 3 March.